The Nod

and its discontents

The Nod is performed regularly in graduate school seminars. Just like other forms of speech, it is performative. It goes in a category along with the type of class talk that is “less of a question and more of a comment [about how much I know]” or a personal anecdote that has marginally to do with the topic but triggered some narcissistic neuron in the brain that says I HAVE TO SHARE THIS, where it proves the point although it is just one life example.

The Nod is silent, save for some emotional utterance that may accompany it, but it does not need formal language. The Nod is usually following something a professor said. A “nod”, as generally understood, as an affirmative reaction, in lieu of saying “yes,” or a general signal of understanding, but “The Nod,” is a signifier of one’s relationship to a universal knowing, a cosmic connection of understanding, a wink-wink connection with the professor. The Nod is a redundant act, because the large truths that the professor shares are already known to them, they are there to affirm the presence of such truths. They know, they are in on the joke, they are there to affirm the professor, even if the professor didn’t know it. To Nod is to laugh about how obvious something is, how known, how positively affirming it is to the imagined community of SMARTIES WHO ALREADY KNOW THIS.

The Nod knows no gender. Where spoken speech, even if the voice is masked, has very gendered qualities, The Nod is postgender. When race is involved, it really falls along the lines of well…the dominant. The dominant Nods because they have seen what needs to be seen, they have been above looking it, and Nods because in their dominance they can speak not just for the nondominant, but the dominants among them that are not as woke as them.

The Nod gets to say it all while saying nothing. It transgresses the socially accepted performance of raising hands to speak. The Nod doesn’t have to wait its turn. The Nod is nodding to itself.

ADVICE! Send me your woes.


Just like you, I am significantly older than my grad cohort. I want to fit in, but they seem to leave me out. They all talk about stuff I don’t know about (memes? Cardi B?) and drink a lot. How can I show them I want to be part of the group and to stop thinking of me as the old lady?

Thanks, Old Maid Mary

 Dear OMM:

 Have a special party. Invite everyone and get them to dress all fancy. Have grown up foods and fancy dish wear. Once everyone is there, ring a bell and put on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, if you don’t already have them, which you probably already wear. Announce “THE LIBRARY IS OPEN” and then one by one, read them for filth. They will love this, it’s from a very popular reality show that all the kids are watching.


Jealousy Corner!

Things I wish I had created: The @ripannnicolesmith instagram:

Also, the book Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. I mean what the fuck am I even getting this PhD for?


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All content reflects my individual views and is not associated with any university, department, faculty, or students. Names and situations mentioned have been changed.